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6 Things I’m Still Waiting for in 2012 (and likely will be for some time!)

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by School Finance 101

I start this new year with reflections on some unfinished business from 2011 -- Here are a few bits of information I anxiously await for 2012. Some are likely within reach. Others, well, not so much.

1. A thoroughly documented (rigorously vetted) study by Harvard economist Roland Fryer, which actually identifies and breaks out in sufficient detail (& with appropriate rigor & thorough documentation) the costs of delivering in whole and in part (and costs of bringing to scale), no excuses curriculum/models/strategies and comprehensive wrap-around services.

2. The long since promised rigorous New Jersey charter school evaluation -- or even better -- improved student level data in New Jersey such that researchers can actually conduct reasonable analyses of charter schooling and reforms/strategies more generally across New Jersey public & charter schools.

3. That long list of all of those other average to below average paying professions -- professions other than teaching -- where compensation is entirely merit based and based substantially on (noisy) multiple regression estimates of employee effectiveness determined by the behavior of children as young as 8 years old [generously assuming 3rd grade test scores to represent the lower end of the value-added grade range], AND where the top college graduates just can't wait to sign up!

4. That long list of highly successful market-based charter and/or independent private schools -- schools not bound by the shackles of union negotiated agreements -- where teacher compensation is not strongly predicted by (or directly a function of) experience and/or academic credentials, AND where the top college graduates just can't wait to sign up (or stick around)! (see also: http://schoolfinance101.wordpress.com/2010/10/09/the-research-question-that-wasn%E2%80%99t-asked)

5. Evidence that there really is enough money tied up in (wasted on) cheerleading and ceramics to be reallocated to provide sufficient class size reduction in core content areas and increased classroom teacher wages (toward improving teacher quality) to make substantive improvements to the quality of high poverty schools!

6. Evidence that the differences in student outcomes between high performing affluent suburban public school districts and lower performing poor urban and inner urban fringe school districts are somehow explained by substantial differences in personnel policies, merit-based teacher compensation, teacher benefits and negotiated agreements as opposed to substantive differences in family backgrounds and available resources.

For elaboration on a few of these issues, see my recent AP interview with Geoff Mulvihill: http://www.mycentraljersey.com/article/20120101/NJNEWS10/301010003

And so the new year of education policy research and blogging begins. A year in which I, myself, will be engaged in addition, more extensive analyses of the finances of charter schools, revenue raising and expenditure patterns by locations and by network affiliation. A year in which I also expect to be digging deeper into the distribution and effects of cuts in state aid and funding constraints on school and district resource allocation and exploring across multiple states (and districts and schools within states) the causes and consequences of inequities and inadequacies in public education funding.

— Bruce D. Baker
School Finance 101


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